IT was a potpourri of thoughts and ideas as prominent aviation industry stakeholders and a Senator of the Federal Republic took centre stage to discuss the burning concession question and proffer ways on how Nigeria as a country can grow the aviation industry to become the catalyst of economic growth.
Former Director General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr. Harold Demuren who spoke at the conference stated that concession was the way to go but was wary about government’s handling of previous concessions that have resulted to litigation.
Demuren spoke at the Conference on Privatization/Concession of Nigerian Airports convened by CheckinNigeria at the Sheraton Hotels and Towers in Lagos today.
According to the former regulator, for concession to work and flourish in Nigeria, there has to be good corporate governance and abolishing of undue political interference, which according to him, is the reason the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) found itself in this situation today.
According to Demuren, if government goes into this concession without resolving the other concessions, there will be a flurry of further litigation, he however maintained that air transport needed to be fixed or dire consequences will follow.
Addressing Senator Ben Murray Bruce who had spoken earlier Demuren said, “We need to fix aviation or Ben, you will be going to Abuja with a canoe. If we don’t others after us will move with camels, he retorted jokingly.
“When government doesn’t keep agreements, they destroy the industry. Right now we have to be clear on what concessioning is and what we are concessioning, we need to clear them, we need to know. Right now we are still building airports. The Chinese loan airports, they are still building, they have not operated and have not even determined when to transfer so what are we concessioning.”
“We must get the best of investors but we haven’t resolved the issues that are on ground, all the litigation all the conflicting agreements should be reviewed. Now are we going to concession the Chinese terminals too? It is a naïve question but I am naïve and government should come out with clear explanations.”
Demuren suggested that the major airports slated for concessioning work with other airports so the state governments should be engaged as they have a stake in the airport and more often than not are willing to invest to keep their airports running,”it is a thing of pride”.
He asked government to engage the unions, be honest about it and provide them with facts and figure as well as ensure they do not make pronouncements and go back on them.
Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Senator Ben Murray Bruce who provided what his committee, the Privatization committee of the senate was doing to get the country out of its current recession expressed unhappiness at the state of the nation’s aviation sector.
He said an outright privatization like what was done in the United Kingdom would move the industry leaps and bounds, according to him, statistics show that governments that have accepted some kind of privatization or concession has shown to be doing well as against those that have not.
He stated that Nigeria, along with Pakistan, Afghanistan and two others were wallow at the bottom end of worse airports in the world while airports in Singapore, Dubai, Japan were on top of the food-chain and have been privatized unlike the previous he mentioned.
On government’s penchant for breaking agreement’s, Senator Bruce said that the Senate plans to put laws in place to ensure that any asset privatized will have a two-year contention period where anyone not satisfied can object with facts, statistics and document and if none, no more divergent ideas will be allowed.
Also Managing Director of Aeroconsult and former Director of Operations of now defunct Nigeria Airways, Captain Dele Ore and the Chairman of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) Captain Noggie Meggison gave their own views at the conference.